review diary - escape studios "zbrush for 3d artists' part 2


L_O, after a lot of Transposing (not going to show you his left too foot, alright!)

Remember in the first part of my review I said that there wasn’t enough practical elements in the course, that there wasn’t enough actual ZBrushing. The second module of the course obviously had read that and slapped me about my complaining face with a vengeance. 

The first few lessons of this module dealt with sub tools by using a pre-existing figure called L_O that was provided as a download by escape in one the early lessons. This well made simple little .OBJ stayed through the lessons which dealt with polygroups, how to mask them, unmask them, hide, deal with various ways of handling sub-divisions including creasing and how to disperse sub-tools properly in the sub-tool menu.

Then we went onto transpose, again the tutor, the excellent James Rumball, dealt methodically, (I don’t know why I would say this as I can pause the video whenever I want) and patiently with the major features of transpose.

It took me two nights to properly grasp transpose, and the thoroughness that the subject was dealt with helped, but there was almost information overload.  

The culmination of this was the task of reposing the model and all its various sub groups. This if I am honest was a bit too much, and I was floundering for a while, as I had forgotten (no excuses here sunshine!) from the previous lesson the shortcuts and methods to hide polygroups, as I hadn’t made the connect to go back to edit mode, before switching back to the ranspose mode of Scale, Move or Translate. Once I got that though I was chugging away. 

I hit another problem. The course had outlined best practise, before any major work, of setting a morph target for any sub tool that’s being used, so that you can always go back to your base mesh in case you need to start over. I kept finding that the way that I saved projects incrementally would mean that sometimes I would lose my morph targets. I experienced the same with the Transpose Master Plugin which had been a major part of this sequence of lessons, by incrementally saving with a mesh which had been created from a variety of sub-tools, I lost the ability to disperse this mesh back into its sub-tools once it been transposed. 

So this is where I started to use the inbuilt question system  to ask what the problem was. I asked the question at approximately, 9pm, next morning I had an answer from James the tutor, explaining what had happened, and why the transpose master meshes won’t keep their bindings to the original sub-tools when you save in ZBrush projects. So don’t use transpose master if your in a rush or an unstable system. 

Again there was a lot to do, but I got somewhere. My one criticism of the L_0 model section on transpose, was that it was a but full on, although you learned a hell of a lot, mainly by brute force, I think that the finesse required to handle this model correctly was potentially too advanced for so early in the course. But then this is a premium training series and therefore I guess handholding should be at a minimum.

However, I did find that once you got cracking in terms of shortcuts for transpose on the keyboard you were away, so effectively transpose was learned - woot!

The next part of the module dealt with Subtool management and integration With other 3d apps. Now the more observant visitors to my site know that I love me some modo, as my primary app. Apparently there is other app called Maya, people reckon it may catch on, so do Escape and if you don’t like Maya, then the rest of this module would cause issues. One of these apps isn’t Zbrush!

This is primarily due to the way that Pixologic develop Goz, don’t get me wrong, its great that Pixologic make Goz, because if they didn’t getting stuff in and out of zbrush is……convoluted. 

The main issue I have is that of time of writing Goz for modo 501 still isn’t out yet, its been promised since xmas, and apparently is due literally any day, but it ain’t here. You can use modo 401 with it’s version of Goz but you really don’t want to, especially if your on a mac.

Looking back on the L_O start of the course, you could argue that the way the course dealt with basic mesh importing is redundant because of Goz, it’s not, Goz works great, but you need to understand the basics of file I/O in ZBrush to get round hurdles, which a reliance on Goz can bring. 

I also discovered with help from James and the team at escape again using the rather spiffy q&a tool that all not versions of Goz are made equal, a chunk of the second half of this module concentrates on using creasing in Maya to enable hard edges in ZBrush, rather than using the native tools in ZBrush. 

This approach makes perfect sense, and I had learned the hard way with my initial dinosaur sculpting, that having a decent polygon traditional modeller (in my case modo) is essential to doing any kind of professional work with ZBrush, as development of the base mesh is the key to a decent sculpting workflow.

The problem is, that creasing as demonstrated in the tutorials only works in Maya, so if you don’t have access to Maya, this module may be difficult to complete. Remember I’m on a mac, for the life of me I can’t get Goz to work with Cinema 4D, but it’s poly modelling tools are pants compared to modo and as I’m starting to find out Maya as well. 

Once I had got over my Maya aversion, (took me two weeks of stubbornly sitting on my hands to progress), I blasted through to the end of the module. The brilliant thing about the way the course developed through this module, is that you found yourself using transpose, and append and insert subtool with help from Goz as if it was second nature.

There were issues with some parts of this module. The entire series is split across versions 3.5 and 4 of ZBrush. Most of the fundamentals haven’t changed, but I’m starting to notice a habit of being shown a workflow in a tutorial which specifically dealt with ZBrush 3.5 which were made redundant by following lessons, a good case in point being taught elements of the plugin, Subtool master, to be told in a subsequent video that a lot of features in this plugin had been rendered effectively redundant due to improvements in ZBrush 4.

Previous lessons I have taken with other vendors are always version specific with Zbrush, and while it is good that Escape recognise this with the additional videos, I feel that considering the cost the course should cover a specific version. ZBrush 4 has been around since last summer, I think its time training for version 3.5 was put out to pasture.

You may have noticed, that I haven’t done much sculpting yet, it looks like this is coming in the third module, so that’s exciting. But the grounding that Escape are giving in ZBrush does mean, that although you may not be getting to the fun stuff straight away, at least you know how to drive without stabilisers when it comes to integrating ZBrush into your workflow, and for that this training is worth it’s weight in gold. (I realise that the course is virtual and therefore has no weight as such). 

I will try to make the interval to the third module review quicker than the month that has passed since the first module review  and with the quick look I have just taken at module 3 it looks like it will be a blast!